Wellington: New Zealand will become the first country in the world to try to eradicate the Mycoplasma bovis cow disease by culling tens of thousands of cows in the largest mass animal slaughter in the country’s history.
Government and farming sector leaders have agreed to cull 126,000 cows and spend more than NZ$800m ($560 million) over 10 years in an attempt to save the national dairy herd and protect the long-term productivity of the farming sector, which is New Zealand’s second biggest export earner, the Guardian reported on Monday.
Mycoplasma bovis was first detected in New Zealand in July 2017, and manifests in mastitis in cows, severe pneumonia, ear infections and other symptoms.
Since it was first discovered, 26,000 cows have been culled, and the disease is classified as active on 37 properties.
Despite initially being contained to farms in the South Island, the disease has continued to spread and reached the North Island earlier this year.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Monday: This is a tough call… No one ever wants to see mass culls. But the alternative is to risk the spread of the disease across our national herd. We have a real chance of eradication to protect our more than 20,000 dairy and beef farms, but only if we act now.
Ardern said total eradication of the disease was possible as it was not yet widespread and had presented in only one strain.
New Zealand is the world’s largest exporter of dairy, producing 3 per cent of all the world’s milk. It has 6.6 million dairy cows.